November 4, 2014

After launching the season with the storied Gewandhaus Orchestra, leading concerts both at the orchestra’s Leipzig home and on a tour of major European music capitals and festivals, Alan Gilbert returns to Germany to conduct three more great orchestras with which he has developed particularly close relationships. With the NDR Symphony Orchestra, Hamburg at home (Dec 4 and 7), and in Lübeck (Dec 5), he presents the world premiere of Thierry Escaich’s Concerto for Violin, Oboe and Orchestra, commissioned by the NDR and the New York Philharmonic, and featuring violinist Lisa Batiashvili, the New York Philharmonic’s Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in-Residence, and oboist Francois Leleux. (The work will receive its U.S. premiere in April at Avery Fisher Hall). Gilbert’s NDR engagement follows three concerts each with the Munich Philharmonic (Nov 10, 12, 13) and the Berlin Philharmonic (Nov 21 – 23), where his program includes two Third Symphonies, pairing Felix Mendelssohn’s “Scottish” Symphony with the “Sinfonia Espansiva” of Carl Nielsen. The conductor has been championing Nielsen’s music enthusiastically – and to great acclaim – with The Nielsen Project, a multi-season initiative with the New York Philharmonic that culminates in January with performances of the Danish composer’s Clarinet Concerto, with Philharmonic Principal Clarinet Anthony McGill as soloist, to be recorded for later release.

It was in 2011 that Alan Gilbert made his debut with the Munich Philharmonic, impressing the Süddeutsche Zeitung with his “spirit, joy in making music, communication, [and] energy,” and this past July he conducted the orchestra in an outdoor concert on the Odeonsplatz. He has a long and fruitful relationship with Hamburg’s NDR Symphony Orchestra, where he has served as principal guest conductor since 2004. The Berlin Morgenpost described Gilbert’s 2006 Berlin Philharmonic debut, when he stepped in for an indisposed Bernard Haitink, as “the embodiment of a conducting ‘event.’” Since then, Gilbert has led the orchestra in a wide variety of music, from iconic works like Stravinsky’s Firebird to lesser-known gems such as Martinu’s Symphony No. 4, which under his leadership the orchestra performed “with utmost intensity” that effectively “ripped [the composer] from the perpetual twilight that has been so negligently inflicted upon him” (Morgenpost). Last season, Gilbert’s two programs with the orchestra surveyed a wide variety of 20th-century repertoire, from Bartok’s The Wooden Prince and Lutoslawski’s Symphony No. 4, to Magnus Lindberg’s 1985 landmark, Kraft.

That the music of Carl Nielsen (1865-1931) figures in Gilbert’s upcoming program with the Berlin Philharmonic should come as no surprise, given his impassioned advocacy of the Danish composer’s music over the past several seasons. This fall, Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic continued their increasingly celebrated Nielsen Project with performances of the composer’s Fifth and Sixth Symphonies and Maskarade Overture, recorded for later release, and the release on the Dacapo label of Symphonies 1 and 4. Nielsen’s Third Symphony, which Gilbert will conduct in Berlin, featured on his previous Dacapo release with the New York Philharmonic; it was named one of the best recordings of 2012 by the New York Times, which observed: “The first release in the series is terrific, with pulsing and insightful accounts of the Second Symphony (‘The Four Temperaments’) and the Third (‘Sinfonia Espansiva’).” In January, Gilbert and the Philharmonic return to Nielsen with performances of the Clarinet Concerto, showcasing the orchestra’s new Principal Clarinet, Anthony McGill in his solo debut with the orchestra. Upon its completion, The Nielsen Project will comprise four recordings, surveying the composer’s six symphonies and three concertos, released as a set by Dacapo and distributed by Naxos in 2015 in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth.

Gilbert launched 2014-15 with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, in season-opening performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. Substituting for an injured Riccardo Chailly, Gilbert also led the orchestra on a tour that brought the esteemed ensemble to Musikfest Berlin, the Lucerne Festival and London’s BBC Proms. The UK’s Independent noted that the Gilbert/Leipzig Mahler 3 “blew not just our socks but everything else off,” naming it one of the highlights of the 2014 Proms season. A critic for The Telegraph concurred, calling it “an overwhelming performance”: “Gilbert shaped the finale magnificently. Building it up from its hushed, strings-only hymn – surely a tribute to the spirituality of Beethoven’s string quartet Op. 135 – and gradually folding in the other instruments, he delivered an overwhelming apotheosis.” Their account of Beethoven’s Ninth in the Proms’ penultimate concert was equally acclaimed, with The Telegraph praising the “urgent and often thrilling performance,” and The Guardian giving special notice to the “tremendous” finale: “There were fine insights from Gilbert here, too, from the almost imperceptible first emergence of the Freude theme out of the silence that preceded it, to the thrillingly precise, yet almost frenzied elation of the closing bars.”

Now in his sixth season as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, where he has become a “force of permanent revolution” (New York) and been praised for “devising programs that extend and refresh the repertory” (New Yorker), Gilbert will be back in his hometown to usher in the New Year, leading the orchestra in a pair of programs that include three performances of Verdi’s Requiem (Jan 15 –17). Soon after, he returns to the Metropolitan Opera to conduct a revival of Mozart’s Don Giovanni (Feb 4 – 17). In the spring he makes his return to Europe with the New York Philharmonic for the EUROPE / SPRING 2015 TOUR, with stops in Cologne, Dublin, London, and Paris, among other cities.

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A list of the conductor’s fall engagements in Germany follows, and additional information may be found at his website: www.alangilbert.com.

Alan Gilbert – Fall 2014 Engagements in Germany

Nov 10, 12
Munich Philharmonic
Ottorino Respighi: The Fountains of Rome
Beethoven: Symphony No. 1 in C, Op. 21
Debussy: Images

Nov 13
Munich Philharmonic
Beethoven: Symphony No. 1 in C, Op. 21
Debussy: Images

Nov 21, 22, 23
Berlin Philharmonic
J.S. Bach: “Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid” BWV 58
Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 3 in A minor, “Scottish”
Nielsen: Symphony No. 3, Op. 27, “Sinfonia Espansiva” (with Christina Landshamer, soprano; Michael Nagy, baritone)

Dec 4, 5, 7
NDR Symphony Orchestra Hamburg
Hamburg, Germany (Dec 4 & 7)
Lübeck, Germany (Dec 5)
Adès: Three Studies from Couperin
Thierry Escaich: Concerto for Violin, Oboe and Orchestra (world premiere, commissioned by the NDR and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, with Lisa Batiashvili, violin; Francois Leleux, oboe)
Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14

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© 21C Media Group, November 2014